I was recently in Ghana, visiting my parents for the holidays. We took a trip to Kumasi, which holds West Africa’s largest market and had a tour guide show us around. As we walked through the thousands of small family-operated stalls, and were over-stimulated by all the sights, smells and sounds, I couldn’t help but notice the business patterns they all seemed to adopt.
These small family operated stalls had been passed down through generations for several decades, and served the same customers over and over. All the stalls were fairly small, but they had a set of regular and loyal customers buying their goods every week. They knew their customers and were able to not only small talk with them but also ask them more personal questions. They knew what their customers wanted and sometimes had their orders ready for them. Even with the smallest of stalls the owners were able to make a living and support their families, all from the repeat purchases their loyal customers brought them.
What can you learn from West Africa that may benefit your brand?
Customer service is a great way to differentiate your brand – The owners of the stalls knew their customers, their likes, dislikes and more personal details, which allowed them to move past the small-talk stage and really get to know them. They differentiated themselves from the competition by becoming familiar with their customers, and also providing great customer service by having a real interest in their customers’ lives. Being friendly with customers can differentiate your brand because customers feel you are providing good customer service. Understanding your customers may even help you suggest other products they may be interested in, or let you realize the need for a new product or service.
Engage your customers & make them feel special – Each customer was made to feel special. The initial questions of “How are you?” and “How is the family?” led to a unique conversation between each customer and stall-owner. Giving each customer a unique and personal experience, makes your customer feel more special and is more likely to get your brand more Word-of-Mouth and repeat purchases.
Loyal customers drive repeat purchases – Every person at the market seemed to have their usual stall to buy from, even though there were hundreds on each side they could have chosen instead. Once your customers really get to know the person behind the brand and the great service you provide, they will think twice about moving their business to one of your competitors, as that would be time and energy consuming. They may choose to purchase several products from you, or become a fan/cheerleader for your brand and spread the word about your great services.
Loyal customers build your network for you – Groups of friends were also often gathered around each stall, and the guide only took us to speak to people at the stalls she normally shopped at. Your loyal customers will do the same, and refer their friends and acquaintances to your services. Word-of-mouth from a friend or someone held in high regard, often gives people that extra nudge they need to buy a product or service.